Lacking Grace

Author’s Note: Just a bit of bonding between two unlikely allies.

Lacking Grace

“I suppose you’ll consider this… impertinent, but… how did your wife die?”

“You mean, did she kill herself or did I kill her?” The question was amusing. She should have asked that sooner rather than allow him to take her home or offer her anything, but then he did think he’d unsettled her plenty over the course of their limited interactions thus far. “I do not know the exact circumstances of her death. I was not here.”

“How can they say you killed her if you weren’t there when she died?”

“Rumors hardly need logic to thrive. Why should this situation be any different? Whether I was there or not, she is dead, she will not return, and there are some who would blame me for this fact. I do not know that I am… innocent as I am a man who travels often and paid little mind to her when I was home—indeed, the state of my first marriage was quite as I described it to you when I offered that as an option.”

“You didn’t love her?”

“I married because I was duty-bound to do so, because I was at risk of losing all my parents provided for me if I refused. It is a man’s prerogative to make his way in the world, but when I was younger, I was a coward. I feared being without the trappings of the things I was raised with. Now that I am older and a great deal bitterer, I don’t have the same fear of losing them. She was the one they liked, I knew her some, and I let it happen. I suppose that is enough, isn’t it? She could not have been happy when she was with me, and so if she did decide to end her life, it was partially my fault.”

“I think you must still be a coward if you resort to making the woman break off the engagement.”

He laughed. “Indeed, I think you are correct. How perceptive of you.”

“I doubt that. You are not at all easy to understand, Mr. Thatcher.”

He grimaced. “Mr. Thatcher is my father. Though… In fairness, I could hardly expect you to use the sort of ‘intimate’ nickname that my associates use. That is too forward and too improper.”

“Were I truly your fiancée I could use it, could I not?”

“Ah, but you are not my fiancée, now are you? You are the unfortunate victim of circumstances which have forced our acquaintance, but you would not wish yourself in that role, nor would I ask it of you. That is for the best, isn’t it?”

She bit her lip, and he frowned, wondering why the gesture seemed so charming on her when it was something to be scorned. Hesitation was for those who did not have the courage to act upon their true impulses, and what they did proved false to all concerned, all in some pointless exercise of etiquette or good manners. “I suppose you would find my name quite… ill-suited to me.”

“You believe you lack grace?”

“I am no beauty.”

“What has beauty to do with grace? Grace is a quality of movement but also of some intangible inner part of your being. You are either graceful or you are not, and it matters little if you are pretty. The most graceful person I know is a dwarf. He doesn’t stand higher than my hip, and he is rather rotund as well, with a face pock-marked with scars, but if you see him in action, you cannot help but be impressed by his agility and yes, his grace. He is a very talented man.”

She frowned at him, and he smiled. “It is quite true. As is the fact that I lack grace.”

“That is a bit foolish to say when you have me beside you.”

He laughed. “True, to a point. In my physical person and my manners, though, I am rather lacking in that quality, I assure you.”

She studied him as they walked. “You are quick to belittle yourself, aren’t you?”

“A favorite past time of mine, I must confess.”

“That is absurd.”

“Not for me.”

Next: Not Quite Home

Back: Two Options

Beginning: Dreams Were All They Gave for Free

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